Broncos: Joe Southwick is fourth in the country in completion percentage (72.3 %). Some of that success is attributable to the regularity with which the Broncos offense uses the wide receiver screen – but that isn’t the easiest pass in football. Fact: Take away three receiver drops and Southwick would lead the nation in completion percentage, and would give him the second highest mark in the last five years – second to Kellen Moore in 2010.
Wolf Pack: Cody Fajardo is reportedly healthy after suffering a sprained knee two weeks ago. He’s yet to throw an interception and is an explosive threat in the read option.
Broncos: With Aaron Baltazar out for the season with a torn anterior cruciate ligament, Jay Ajayi is likely to flirt with 20 carries the rest of the way. He had 109 yards on 22 totes last Saturday. Expect huge numbers today. Derrick Thomas and Jack Fields will need better showings to be considered long-term answers for spelling Mr. Pickle Juice.
Wolf Pack: The Wolf Pack average less than four yards per carry as a team and that includes Fajardo’s 4.7 yards per tote. Kendall Brock is a smaller lead back while Don Jackson backs him up and adds a bit of thump.
Wide Receiver/Tight End
Broncos: Shane Williams-Rhodes has 38 receptions in his last four games. He seems to be Southwick’s most trusted target. At this point, Matt Miller catching the football is more import than the return to full health of Kirby Moore and Aaron Burks.
Wolf Pack: Brandon Wimberly, Richy Turner and Aaron Bradley are each reliable targets for Fajardo, but each also average less than 11.5 yards per reception. Tight end Jarred Gipson is out for the year.
Broncos: With right tackle Rees Odhiambo out, redshirt freshman Steven Baggert made his first career start. Paradoxically enough, facing what was considered the best front seven in the Mountain West going into the contest; the Broncos appeared to play their best game up front. They seemed to have an answer for every exotic Aggies blitz.
Wolf Pack: Nevada starts two underclassman up front. Despite not suffering any season-ending injuries, the Wolf Pack’s offensive line hasn’t been great, evidenced by the Wolf Pack’s low yards per carry average.
Broncos: Demarcus Lawrence, Beau Martin, Armand Nance, Ricky-Tjong-Tjoe and at times stud end Kharyee Marshall dominated. There appeared to be a steep drop-off when the second defensive line unit rotated in, but the Broncos don’t need their fearsome fivesome to take every snap with an offense averaging over 40 points the last five weeks.
Wolf Pack: The Wolf Pack are starting two new lineman this week, which in mid-October is a pretty good indication they haven’t played well. They have just nine sacks one the year, and four came against Hawaii.
Wolf Pack: Jon McNeal and Matt Lyons are solid, and certainly the Wolf Pack ‘backers haven’t been helped by the defensive front, but the unit has had its tackling issues, too.
Broncos: Redshirt freshman Ben Weaver has not only been the Broncos best linebacker, but the weakside ‘backer has a chance to be one of the best defenders statistically in BSU history. To wit: Weaver has made at least seven tackles in every game despite starting just three. He had a career high 12 last week against the Aggies.
Wolf Pack: Nevada will start 5-foot-8 true freshman Elijah Mitchell, and the Broncos will likely try to make sure Matt Miller, Geraldo Boldewijn or Aaron Burks gets matched up with him. Opposing quarterbacks have posted a cumulative 140 quarterback rating against the Wolf Pack defense and it has only two interceptions.
Broncos: Like three other position groups – defensive line, offensive line, and linebackers – the Broncos secondary probably had its best performance last Saturday. From Bryan Douglas’ back-to-back bat-downs to thwart what could have been a season-changing touchdown, to he and Donte Deayon’s interceptions, the performance provided hope for a potential future rematch with Fresno State, and gave merit to coaches proclamations that the youngsters have been gaining confidence.
Wolf Pack: Brent Zuzo has made all six of his kicks, and Chase Tenpenny is averaging 44 yards a punt, but the Wolf Pack have been well below average on kick and punt returns this year.
Broncos: Kicker Dan Goodale has quietly had a superb season; making eight of nine field goals (the lone miss was blocked) and having more than half of his kick-offs reach the back of the end-zone.